Ark schools across Southwark are consulting on new plans to help support trans children and pupils who ‘self-identify’ their gender.
In March the News reported that two women were admitted to a male-only swimming session at Dulwich Leisure Centre after telling front-desk staff that they self-identified as men, as part of a protest highlighting what they claim are worrying changes to the Gender Recognition Act, allowing people to ‘self-identify’ as a man or woman.
Now the News can reveal that complex issue is being discussed at schools across the borough, including Ark Globe Academy in Elephant and Castle and All Saints Academy in Camberwell, in light of the new legislation, to help support children who believe they were born as the wrong gender, or do not identify as either ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Ark said this week that gender-neutral uniforms could replace traditional ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ outfits, as it tries to ensure all children are given a ‘positive and supportive’ environment where they can thrive.
A spokesperson for ARK said: “Ark’s safeguarding team is developing new guidance documents on gender self-identification and trans rights within our schools.
“We are developing these guidelines in consultation with our schools, and safeguarding staff are receiving training on this topic this term.
“We will be using the learnings from the training to feed into the guidance.
“As part of this, we will be including guidance on creating a gender-neutral uniform policy. The guidance is to be approved at board level this summer.
“Once approved the guidance will be shared with all Ark school leaders to roll out through training for their staff.
“In the interim, each of our schools has dedicated safeguarding leads, who are supported by the Ark central team.
“Ark ensures each school has access to appropriate guidance to inform their policies.
“Currently we refer to national government policies, and take advice from legal partners and national organisations on issues surrounding gender self-identification and trans rights.”
Dr Jane Hamlin, president of the Beaumont Society, an organisation giving support to transgender people since 1996, said she hoped parents would not be alarmed by any future proposals as there was “nothing for them to fear, but plenty to celebrate”.
She told the News: “As a former teacher I know that it is crucial that all children in our schools are supported in order that they may develop their knowledge and skills in a safe and caring environment.
“This is particularly true for children who identify as trans, so I am delighted that Southwark schools are consulting on changes to their gender policies to ensure that trans, and non-binary children are not discriminated against and are able to enjoy the same opportunities as all other children.
“Trans children are first and foremost children. They have the same needs as other children. Unfortunately our culture has unwittingly created barriers that divide us unnecessarily.”